The musician - Playing the guitar

The musician – Playing the guitar

Throughout his musical career, Michael Jackson wrote and/or composed songs, – as well as in collaboration with other musicians or his siblings – material in tune with his other related endeavors exposing and/or tackling critical world issues and concerns, and the peaceful, unified means and solutions through which they can be alleviated or solved. The list including songs from the Jackson 5 earlier albums, come in support of the lyrical themes, and are renowned for their potent visual message and effects.

 Here is what the singer-songwriter has to say with reference to some of his most memorable songs.

* “Moon Walk” Autobiography (1988) Excerpts:


On single “Ben”:

’Ben’ meant a lot to me. Nothing had ever excited me as much as going to the studio to put my voice on film. I had a great time. Later, when the movie came out, I’d go to the theater and wait until the end when the credits would flash on, and it would say, “‘Ben’sung by Michael Jackson.” I was really impressed by that. I loved the song and loved the story. Actually, the story was a lot like E.T. It was about a boy who befriended a rat. People didn’t understand the boy’s love for this little creature. He was dying of some disease and his only true friend was Ben, the leader of the rats in the city where they lived. A lot of people thought the movie was a bit odd, but I was not one of them. The song went to number one and is still a favorite of mine. I have always loved animals and I enjoy reading about them and seeing movies in which they’re featured.”

On song “Blues Away”:

“Blues Away” was one of my first songs, and though I don’t sing it any more, I’m not embarrassed to hear it. I couldn’t have gone on in this business if I had ended up hating my own records after all that work. It’s a light song about overcoming a deep depression – I was going for the Jackie Wilson “Lonely Teardrops” way of laughing on the outside to stop the churning inside.

On song “Living Together” (with The Jacksons):

“Though we couldn’t spell it out, we kind of hinted about our situation in a song called “Living Together,” which Kenny and Leon chose with us in mind. “If we’re going to stick together, we’ve got to be a family. Have yourself a real good time, but don’t you know it’s getting late.” The strings pointed and thrust like they did in “Backstabbers,” but that was a Jacksons’ message, even if it wasn’t in the Jacksons’ style – yet.”

On song “That’s What You Get For Being Polite” (with The Jacksons):

‘That’s What You Get for Being Polite’ was my way of letting on that I knew I wasn’t living in an ivory tower and that I had insecurities and doubts just as all older teenagers do. I was worried that the world and all it had to offer could be passing me by even as I tried to get on top of my field.”

On song “You Can’t Win”:

“My character (the Scarecrow from movie The Wiz’)) had plenty to say and to learn. I was propped up on my pole with a bunch of crows laughing at me, while I sang “You Can’t Win.” The song was about humiliation and helplessness – something that so many people have felt at one time or another – and the feeling that there are people out there who don’t actively hold you back as much as they work quietly on your insecurities so that you hold yourself back. The script was clever and showed me pulling bits of information and quotations out of my straw while not really knowing how to use them. My straw contained all the answers, but I didn’t know the questions.”

On single “She’s Out Of My Life”:

“She’s Out of My Life” is about knowing that the barriers that have separated me from others are temptingly low and seemingly easy to jump over and yet they remain standing while what I really desire disappears from my sight. Tom Bahler composed a beautiful bridge, which seemed right out of an old Broadway musical. In reality, such problems are not so easily resolved and the song presents this fact, that the problem is not overcome. We couldn’t put this cut at the beginning or the end of the record, because it would have been such a downer. That’s why when Stevie’s song comes on afterward, so gently and tentatively, as if it was opening a door that had been bolted shut, I still go, “Whew.” […] But I got too wrapped up in “She’s Out of My Life.” In this case, the story’s true – I cried at the end of a take, because the words suddenly had such a strong effect on me. I had been letting so much build up inside me. I was twenty-one years old, and I was so rich in some experiences while being poor in moments of true joy. Sometimes I imagine that my life experience is like an image in one of those trick mirrors in the circus, fat in one part and thin to the point of disappearing in another. I was worried that would show up on “She’s Out of My Life,” but if it touched people’s heartstrings, knowing that would make me feel less lonely. When I got emotional after that take, the only people with me were Q and Bruce Swedien. I remember burying my face in my hands and hearing only the hum of the machinery as my sobs echoed in the room. Later I apologised, but they said there was no need.”

On single “Can You Feel It” (with The Jacksons):

“Right after we finished Off the Wall, I plunged into making the Triumph album with my brothers. We wanted to combine the best of both albums for our tour. “Can You Feel It?” was the first cut on the album, and it had the closest thing to a rock feel that the Jacksons had ever done. It wasn’t really dance music either. We had it in mind for the video that opened our tour, kind of like our own Also Sprach Zarathrustra, the 2001 theme. Jackie and I had thought of combining the band sound with a gospel/children’s choir feel. That was a nod at Gamble and Huff, in a way, because the song was a celebration of love taking over, cleansing the sins of the world.”

On single “This Place Hotel” (originally titled “Heartbreak Hotel”) – with The Jacksons:

“’Heartbreak Hotel’ was the most ambitious song I had composed. I think I worked on a number of levels: You could dance to it, sing along with it, get scared by it, and just listen. I had to tack on a slow piano and cello coda that ended on a positive note to reassure the listener; there’s no point in trying to scare someone if there isn’t something to bring the person back safe and sound from where you’ve taken them. “Heartbreak Hotel” had revenge in it and I am fascinated by the concept of revenge. It’s something I can’t understand. The idea of making someone “pay” for something they’ve done to you or that you imagine they’ve done to you is totally alien to me. The setup showed my own fears and for the first time being helped quell them. There were so many sharks in this business looking for blood in the water. If this song, and later “Billie Jean,” seemed to cast women in an unfavorable light, it was not meant to be taken as a personal statement. Needless to say, I love the interaction between the sexes; it is a natural part of life and I love women. I just think that when sex is used as a form of blackmail or power, it’s a repugnant use of one of God’s gifts.”

On single “Billie Jean”:

“Not My Lover” was a title we almost used for “Billie Jean”, because Q [Quincy Jones] had some objections to calling the song “Billie Jean,” my original title. He felt people might immediately think of Billie Jean King, the tennis player. A lot of people have asked me about that song, and the answer is very simple. It’s just a case of a girl who says that I’m the father of her child and I’m pleading my innocence because “the kid is not my son.” There was never a real “Billie Jean.” (Except for the ones who came after the song.) The girl in the song is a composite of people we’ve been plagued by over the years. This kind of thing has happened to some of my brothers and I used to be really amazed by it. I couldn’t understand how these girls could say they were carrying someone’s child when it wasn’t true. I can’t imagine lying about something like that. Even today there are girls who come to the gate at our house and say the strangest things, like, “Oh, I’m Michael’s wife,” or “I’m just dropping off the keys to our apartment.” I remember one girl who used to drive us completely crazy. I really think that she believed in her mind that she belonged with me. There was another girl who claimed I had gone to bed with her, and she made threats. There’ve been a couple of serious scuffles at the gate on Hayvenhurst, and they can get dangerous. People yell into the intercom that Jesus sent them to speak with me and God told them to come – unusual and unsettling things.”

On single “Beat It”:

“Beat It” was written with school kids in mind. I’ve always loved creating pieces that will appeal to kids. It’s fun to write for them and know what they like because they’re a very demanding audience. You can’t fool them. They are still the audience that’s most important to me, because I really care about them. If they like it, it’s a hit, no matter what the charts say. The lyrics of “Beat It” express something I would do if I were in trouble. Its message – that we should abhor violence – is something I believe deeply. It tells kids to be smart and avoid trouble. I don’t mean to say you should turn the other cheek while someone kicks in your teeth, but, unless your back is against the wall and you have absolutely no choice, just get away before violence breaks out. If you fight and get killed, you’ve gained nothing and lost everything. You’re the loser, and so are the people who love you. That’s what “Beat It” is supposed to get across. To me true bravery is settling differences without a fight and having the wisdom to make that solution possible. […] I felt “Beat It” should be interpreted literally, the way it was written, one gang against another on tough urban streets. It had to be rough. That’s what “Beat It” was about. […] The truth of that experience came out on the screen. The “Beat It” video was menacing, and you could feel those people’s emotions. You felt the experience of the streets and the reality of their lives. You look at “Beat It” and know those kids are tough. They were being themselves, and it came across. It was nothing like actors acting; it was as far from that as possible. They were being themselves; that feeling you got was their spirit. I’ve always wondered if they got the same message from the song that I did.”

On charity single ”We Are The World”:

I think that “We Are the World” is a very spiritual song, but spiritual in a special sense. I was proud to be a part of that song and to be one of the musicians there that night. We were united by our desire to make a difference. It made the world a better place for us and it made a difference to the starving people we wanted to help.”

“We collected some Grammy Awards and began to hear easy-listening versions of “We Are the World” in elevators along with “Billie Jean.” Since first writing it, I had thought that song should be sung by children. When I finally heard children singing it on producer George Duke’s version, I almost cried. It’s the best version I’ve heard.”

On single “Bad”:

“’Bad’” is a song about the street. It’s about this kid from a bad neighborhood who gets to go away to a private school. He comes back to the old neighborhood when he’s on a break from school and the kids from the neighborhood start giving him trouble. He sings, “I’m bad, you’re bad, who’s bad, who’s the best?” He’s saying when you’re strong and good, then you’re bad.”

On single “Man In The Mirror”:

“Man in the Mirror” is a great message. I love that song. If John Lennon was alive, he could really relate to that song because it says that if you want to make the world a better place, you have to work on yourself and change first. It’s the same thing Kennedy was talking about when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change. Start with the man in the mirror. Start with yourself. Don’t be looking at all the other things. Start with you. That’s the truth. That’s what Martin Luther King meant and Gandhi too. That’s what I believe.”

On single “Leave Me Alone”:

“Leave Me Alone” is a track that appears only on the compact disc of Bad. I worked hard on the song, stacking vocals on top of each other like layers of clouds. I’m sending a simple message here: “Leave me alone.” The song is about a relationship between a guy and a girl. But what I’m really saying to people who are bothering me is: “Leave me alone.””


* Excerpts From An Audio Recording – cca 1995:

On single “Billie Jean”:

“When I was very little, around 10 years old, I used to go on these tours with my brothers, The Jackson Five, and I’d hear these crazy stories that these girls would claim my brothers hand relationships with them – which they didn’t, and that they were going to have their children. And I thought that to be so strange and so crazy. And then, a couple of years later, there was this girl, named Billie Jean, who used to stand outside my gate. And I would drive outside the gate and she would say “Here’s the keys to our car”, and she would say “Here’s the keys to the front door”. She would say that I am actually the father of her child, which never ever happened… And that inspired the song, ‘cause the chorus goes “Billie Jean is not my lover, she’s just the one who claims that I am the one, but the kid is not my son”. So, I guess that’s how that happened.”

On single “The Girl is Mine”:

“One of my favorite songs to record of all of my recordings as a solo artist is probably “The Girl is Mine”, because working with Paul McCartney was pretty exciting. And we just literally had fun. It was like lots of kibitzing and playing and throwing stuff at each other and making jokes. It was just a lot of fun, and we actually recorded the track and the vocals pretty much live at the same time, and we do have footage of it, but it’s never been shown. Maybe one day we’ll give you a sneak preview of it.”

On single “Heal The World”:

“Heal The World is one of my favorites of everything I’ve ever recorded, because it’s a public awareness song, and it’s something that I think that would live in the hearts of people for a long time; because it’s about something that is very special, and something that is very innocent, and something that is very important: literally, healing our planet of its wounds and its suffering. And it’s one of my favorite things to do when we’re on tour, because on stage we blow up this giant, inflatable Planet Earth, right on stage, and we have all these children from all different countries and they dress in a different national attire, and we sing this song. And it’s amazing to look out in the audience, and you literally see like two hundred thousand people holding up candles and singing the song. It’s a very spiritual experience and I really enjoy it.”

On single “Earth Song”:

“I remember writing Earth Song when I was in Austria, in a hotel. And I was feeling so much pain and so much suffering of the plight of the Planet Earth. And for me, this is Earth’s Song, because I think nature is trying so hard to compensate for man’s mismanagement of the Earth. And with the ecological unbalance going on, and a lot of the problems in the environment, I think earth feels the pain, and she has wounds, and it’s about some of the joys of the planet as well. But this is my chance to pretty much let people hear the voice of the planet. And this is “Earth Song”. And that’s what inspired it. And it just suddenly dropped into my lap when I was in – on tour in Austria.”

On single “Childhood”:

“Our personal history begins in childhood and the song “Childhood” is a reflection of my life, years ago, when I was much younger. And it’s about the pain, some of the joys, some of the dreaming, some of the mental adventures I took because of the different lifestyle that I had being a child performer. I was born on the stage and “Childhood” – it is my mirror – it is my story.”

On single “Stranger in Moscow”:

“Stranger in Moscow was written when I was in Moscow on the Dangerous Tour. And it was just a strange, eerie, lonely time for me. Outside my hotel was just a sea of faces of… of fans chanting and screaming. But I was inside my room and I felt so all alone, like I was the last person on the planet. And in the song I say “How does it feel when you’re alone and you’re cold inside?” I say “It’s like a stranger in Moscow”, and that’s pretty much how I felt. And the people were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And the concert was very successful, but that day, especially that day, I just felt this different feeling and the song “Stranger in Moscow” came to me. So, that’s how it was written.”

On “Stranger in Moscow” – excerpts from “Smash Hits” interview with Adrian Grant (1995)

“I actually wrote it in September 1993 when I was in Moscow on the Dangerous World Tour. It was when all the allegations were coming out. It was at a time when I was very lonely, very cold…”

On “Stranger in Moscow” – excerpts from his interview with VH-1 (1996):

“I wrote that in Moscow. The lyrics are totally autobiographical. When you hear lines like ‘Here abandoned in my fame.. Armageddon of the brain’ — at the time, on the last tour when we were in Moscow–that’s really how I felt. It kinda created itself; it fell into my lap, because that’s how I was feeling at the time. Just all alone in my hotel and it was raining and I just started writing it.”

On single “They Don’t Care About Us” – excerpt from “Making HIStory” photobook (1995):

“[…] It’s a public awareness song. It’s a protest kind of song […]“

On single “Dirty Diana” – excerpts from ABC’s ‘20/20’ interview with Barbara Walters (1997)

“I wrote a song called “Dirty Diana”. It was not about Lady Diana. It was about a certain kind of girls that hang around concerts or clubs, you know, they call them groupies. […] I’ve lived in that all my life. These girls… they do everything with the band, you know, everything you could imagine. So I wrote a song called ‘Dirty Diana’. […]”

On song “Unbreakable” – excerpt from “T.V. Guide” magazine interview (2001):

“[The message of “Unbreakable” is] that (I’m) invincible, that I’ve been through it all. You can’t hurt me. Knock me down. [To Prince, who begins to bang his Snapple lemonade on the coffee table] See the noise you’re making? You’ve got to be nice and quiet.” .

On song “Unbreakable” – excerpts from an online audio chat through Anthony DeCurtis (2001):

“Unbreakable” [is the song I personally relate to the most.] […] ‘Cause, I’m one of the few people, probably in show business, that have been through the ins and outs, you know, of so many different things. I’ve been through hell and back. I have, to be honest, and still I’m able to do what I do and nothing can stop me. No one can stop me, no matter what. I stop when I’m ready to stop. You know, and I’m just saying, you know, I will continue to move forward, no matter what.”

On song “The Lost Children” – excerpt from “News Of The World” (2001):

“I’m saying there are souls out there that are lost. People who have disappeared and have never been found again. I remember when I was a little kid, I was in a department store with my mother. I was no more than five, I think. I turned around and she was gone. I’ll never forget the feeling. I felt my world was ending. So, imagine really, really being lost. It’s like Armageddon of the brain.”

On charity song “What More Can I Give”, consequently to the 2001 terrorist attacks – excerpt from “Rolling Stones” magazine:“I’m not one to sit back and point the finger and say, ‘Oh I feel bad for what happened to them’. I want to do something, to give, to help those who lost their parents, who lost their mothers and their fathers. Those are our people. Those are our children. Those are our parents. I want the whole world to sing (“What More Can I Give”), to bring us together as a world, because a song is a mantra, something you repeat over and over. And we need peace, we need giving, we need love, we need unity.”

* Can You Feel It” video – (1981) (spoken intro)„In the beginning, the land was pure. Even in the early morning light, you could see the beauty in the forms of Nature, so all men and women of every color and shape would be here too. And they would find it all too easy sometimes not to see the colors and to ignore the beauty in each other. But they would never lose sight of the dream for the better world that they could unite and build together in triumph.”

* ”Heal The World” video (1992) (spoken version bit):

„Heal The World organization is formulated to heal..really, be it the children, the ecology, people in general, and it’s a non-profit organization and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do; it’s what inspired the song ‚Heal The World’. Our goal is to change the world and change world consciousness about children, the ecology and the planet, to make it a better place for everybody, starting with the children. That’s the future we live, and I’ll stick with it forever until it’s done. It’s forever. It’s not a publicity stunt, it’s not something trying to use as a vehicle to launch a single or an album, it’s something that’s directly from my heart; I’m doing it as I sincerely care and love them and want to help out. I really feel bad for these kids. I guess you feel the pain just hearing about the things we see on television or on the radio, you know, the statistics about the kids…I mean, I’ve heard about this year, 2,6 million children die from preventable diseases and millions of children die from child abuse, just violence which it doesn’t have to be and I just feel so bad from things like that. You know, sometime (sic) I feel so guilty when I have dinner or breakfast, because I realize how so many people don’t have those simple things that we so much take for granted. And people, they sit at the table and they pray and all that, which is beautiful, but to do something is the thing, you know, you have to act, so I think it’s important to help out as much as you can. If one person just helped one child…just helped one child…they’d done so much. You can do that, it would be beautiful, just to help one person would be a lot, it’s a big step forward, because it’s a lot to be done, and children all over the world are in such need. I feel so pure when I can do this, I feel God applauding, I really do; I feel that I’ve done what I’m supposed to do and I’m compelled to do these things, I feel. And kids are the best; they are wonderful.”

SOURCE: the silenced truth